Can’t Remove Key from Ignition – Auto Repair Blog

11:26 am Consumer, DIY, How To Auto Repair, Jeep

Jeep_LibertySummary: This auto repair article covers the common problem of “the key being stuck in the ignition.” The shift interlock system is usually the cause of the key being stuck in the ignition lock. We do a general overview of this problem as it is related to a wide range of vehicles and have a specific vehicle, a 2006 Jeep Liberty that has the problem too. As with all vehicle systems, it’s best to have an understanding of how the system works to be able to diagnose the problem properly.

There are several reasons why the key may be unable to be removed from the ignition switch. The ignition lock cylinder could have worn or fallen tumblers, binding the key and preventing it from being removed. In many cases though, the reason will be related to the shift interlock system. Normally the shifter has to be in park before the key is released and is able to be removed from the switch. The shifters that seem to be have the most problems recently (many Chrysler products) – are the ones which are mounted on the floor or in the center console. Some of the shifters today are made with plastic components that sometimes stick and will not spring into the proper position at times. These shifters are also located near cup holders, which pose another potential problem – SPILLED SODA. The gummy residue from spilled drinks can contribute to the problem of sticky shifter mechanisms. You see there is a cable that goes from the shifter to the ignition lock. The cable is called a shift interlock cable – once the shifter is put into the park position a small lever springs into action to move the cable. When the system is working properly, the interlock cable that is hooked up to the ignition lock (where the key goes) pushes an internal mechanism that in turn releases the key. Jeep_Liberty_Shifter

The vehicle pictured in this article, a 2006 Jeep Liberty four wheel drive; ended up having a problem in the shifter (not the cable) which was servicable only by replacement of the entire shifter assembly part # 1-52125305 AD. There is NO adjustment for the interlock cable on this vehicle. The shifter happened to be an updated part that required an updated interlock cable as well – part # 1-52109779 AG. The newly updated shifter had a smaller retaining area where the cable attaches, which prevented re-using the old inter lock cable. The shifter interlock release lever as stated before, was not springing forward enough to make the cable release the key in the ignition lock. To temporarily release the key, the lever for the interlock cable can be pushed forward with a screwdriver or by hand to allow enough travel for the cable to release the key. *The interlock cable is the smaller one on the left sideJeep_Liberty_Shifter_Removed

If replacing the shifter and installing an updated interlock cable, following the steps below may be helpful. Remove center console to access the shifter assembly. Disconnect the interlock cable and shifter cable from the shift lever assembly. Unplug the electrical connector at the rear of the shifter. Unbolt the four nuts and remove the assembly from the vehicle. Lower the steering column by using the tilt lever. Remove the two plastic trim collars. Turn the ignition switch to the run position and depress the tab below the key lock cylinder, while holding the tab pull the key and cylinder out of the column. Now the shift interlock cable can be removed. Reverse the procedure outlined for re-installing the new parts.

Related Repair Article

Also see our repair blog on Jeep Liberty rear power window replacement.

28 Responses
  1. CodyB :

    Date: March 10, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

    There is a cheaper fix to this, Im sorry I did not take any pics as I went, but after you have the shifter out of the vehicle, you will see the small white plug, you must release this white plug from its black base to give enough length to the two black wires that go into the bottom of the shift lever. Next you will see a torx set screw on the sifter arm below the “button.” If you loosen this to where you can slide the shifter off you will see a white plastic linkage with a spring below it inside the metal arm of the lever. My linkage was in upside down therefore lengthening the throw of the button on the lock out pin below. If you flip this white plastic linkage over, slide the spring onto it, and carefully replace it you will have eliminated the need to buy a whole new shifter unit. I had to flip the whole assembly over and drop the linkage into the top grip part to make it seat right. Then I slid it all together upside down and that fixed it for me.

    Also I believe you have the parts numbers backwards in the article.

    I hope this helps someone that wound up with my problem.

  2. jim morisseau :

    Date: May 1, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    This happened to me yesterday and I fixed it with a sheet rock screw. I admit to being a Mickey Mouse mechanic, but here is what I did. If you lay on the floor, head by the gas pedal, and look up at the steering wheel, you can see the cable that is mentioned. It goes into the little box under the key. The cable is on the left and on the right is a little yellow plastic thing. This thing moves back and forth as the key is turned, but it sticks, which causes the problem. It is supposed to be back, away from the steering column, then it moves towards the gas pedal when the key is turned on, and it won’t go back like it should. I found that I could push the button back in usimng a screwdriver, and when I held the button in place, the key worked fine. So I drilled a small hole juft in front of the button, drilling into a small space on the plastic holder, and then I inserted a screw that prevents the button from moving at all.So far I haven’t seen any problem with this. Nothing seems to have been disabled, everything works fine.

  3. jim morisseau :

    Date: May 1, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    OOPS I have to take that back, it keeps the shifter locked up. I am using a small nail to push the little button back into place until I can figure out a better fix.

  4. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: May 2, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    I appreciate you providing us with that last bit of information. It might save someone some trouble.

    Don’t feel bad – most of us have earned some ears at one point or another πŸ˜‰

  5. Dave :

    Date: May 22, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    Thanks for the info! I am dealing with this issue today. Hopefully with this insight, I can avoid going to the dealership and giving up $$$’s.

  6. Ida :

    Date: July 23, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

    I also fixed my problem. I put the metal rod like wire back in the plastic and reset the button the key came out. I saved myself $300 and I didn’t have to take the car in to the dealer. I read the comments and decided this is something I can do myself.

  7. Ida :

    Date: July 23, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

    I was so excited after I fixed the car I forgot to say HOW MUCH I LOVE MY JEEP:)

  8. Donna :

    Date: August 29, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    I can’t get my key out of the ignition. My car gear shift moves up and down even when the car is off, it has never done this before. Anyone know what I can try?
    My car is a 2002 Honda Civic, Automatic

  9. Dave :

    Date: September 12, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

    Key stuck in ignition, wouldn’t lock into park. Loosened the set screw under shifter button, lifted up on shifter shaft and reset set screw while pulling up on shifter shaft. Fixed problem!

  10. Judy :

    Date: October 22, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

    My Jeep Liberty had key sticking problem too. I used my spare key from the dealer and that solved the problem. It was the first key that created the problem. Same fix and problem solved by a friend!

  11. james :

    Date: January 13, 2011 @ 11:15 am

    i also have a jeep liberty i had the same problem with key stuck thank you guys very much for advice save me a lot of money and fixed problem.


    Date: March 27, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    My 2006 Jeep Liberty had this exact problem ordered the parts Monday by Friday I had the correct parts finally geez they don’t tell you anything lol dealership that is ..
    but no problem changing out time consumeing but that’s all worth doing it yourself but should of been a chrysler recall! Because they have already updated parts huh? lol lol

  13. Vince :

    Date: April 19, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

    Late night I unhooked the ignition cable which allowed the key to be removed, this repair would cost me $450.00 @ San Jose dealer. I drove the jeep around the town, and saw no issues. I hope I’m right ?

  14. Connie :

    Date: April 27, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

    Same problem…don’t understand half of what you guys are talking about, but I’m printing this page and taking it to a mechanic I trust! Thanks!

  15. james :

    Date: July 31, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    I had the same problem with my jeep liberty 2006, after reading this blog I decided to go in so I took the console apart and had better access to the shifter I cleaned the area and reset a plastic pin that moves with the shifter, played around with the solenoid, pressing down on it in a pumping action, I then started the car put it in gear then shut off the engine and voi-la! I was able to take out the key with no problem, finally I put the console back together, the whole process took two hours as I was in no rush talking on the phone and then searching Google. Furthermore I am no mechanic just an electrician and thankfully it did not cost me a dime, so all DIYers out there before you buy a shifter try cleaning yours. I am thankful for the information so I am leaving these remarks, hope this helps someone.

  16. Albert :

    Date: December 3, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    I had the same problem with a 2006 Jeep Liberty. I tried all the supplied DIY fixes but still no joy.
    So I went online and found a Ebay shifter from a 2007 Jeep Liberty. I also found the interlock cable online. Much cheaper then the dealership. After install all works great so I took apart the old shifter and found the plastic shaft inside of the shifter knob had failed/snapped with no known repair.
    Thanks for the web site..

  17. Pat :

    Date: December 9, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

    Here is a quick fix so that you may at least remove key and not leave your vehicle to be easily stolen.
    Remove cowling around your gear shifter with anything flat. As you are stitting in the drivers seat, the cable you are looking for will be at the top left, with the white plastic on it as pictured above. Simply take a pair of pliers, (needle nose if you have them) and pull the cable towards the rear of the vehicle (jeep) and just disconnect it. It is quite easy to do. Your jeep will start, stop, go into or out of gear etc….
    NOTE::::::::This is a quick fix so that you can take your key out and help prevent theft. Your key will come out no matter what gear it is in, therefore if you are on an incline and forget to put it in park, it may roll backwards. Make a habit on any incline, to always turn your wheels and apply the parking brake. I hope this helps to get you out of a bind. Good luck guys, Pat

  18. Vicki :

    Date: May 8, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

    I had the same problem with key stuck. Made the adjustments which worked but I think for me, my problem is the solenoid? Over adjusting the park/lock cable gets the key out but the metal arm on the solenoid is not locking in when moved into park like it should and I’m thinking if the solenoid worked properly, the over adjustment and key stuck problem wouldn’t be an issue? Are there anyone else with this thought that might have caused the problem initially?

  19. buford2332 :

    Date: July 8, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

    Jeep key not turning to the off position. Removal – easy fix. Remove the cover under the cylinder and key where the cable locks into. two bolts, cover and spring. Take off the small locking tab that sits on top of the cable. Install spring and cover and the key will turn. The only thing is the shifter will work with the key off. Temporary fix till you can afford to fix it right. Just save the locking tab and re-install when ready to fix right. Takes fifteen minutes to fix.

  20. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: July 9, 2013 @ 9:12 am

    I would also add that disabling the shift interlock (even temporarily) is a safety issue because of the gear selector possibly being bumped out of park accidentally by a pet or child and the vehicle rolling. If I was in this position I would use the parking brake as an extra precaution until the vehicle is fixed properly. Be safe.

  21. Robert :

    Date: October 8, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    So…. Any idea on where to find these parts? I seem to be having a lot of trouble finding them in after market.

  22. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 8, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

    Robert, I would check with the dealer because they should have the most updated versions of the parts. Good Luck.

  23. Bart :

    Date: November 9, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

    Thanks Dave. Used your info and fixed my girlfriend’s 2006 Jeep Liberty and everything’s great;

  24. geauxcajun :

    Date: November 10, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    I have a 98 GMC Jimmy. When I turn off the ignition, it does not release the key so I’m able to remove the key. Every once and awhile after leaving the vehicle unattended I’m able to turn the ignition off and remove the key. What do I have to do to fix this?

  25. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: December 24, 2013 @ 7:01 am

    Sorry it took so long to respond. Your comment came in with all caps and was put off to the side. I ran across it and this time I had time to retype it. Usually if the key does not release, it’s because of a shift interlock problem. Or a broken plastic lever in the shifter assembly. Dirt, drinks being spilled or simply wear could be the cause. Since yours works as it should sometimes, it may only require cleaning and lubrication to get it back into to dependable working order. I’d take a look at it and go from there. Good Luck.

  26. Nick :

    Date: January 26, 2017 @ 12:19 am

    Why do I have to wiggle the shifter so my car will turn off and release key? When I put in park I go to turn off car and it stays on, I then have to wiggle shifter for the lil knob to pop out all the way on it then I can turn off?

  27. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 26, 2017 @ 7:12 am

    Ignition shift interlock sticking at some point. Google “shift interlock system” to learn about different types. Some are pretty much mechanical controlled, some electrical using switches and solenoids and some are controlled by the computer with solenoids.

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